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Amazon Subscribe and Save: A Good Alternative for Warehouse Membership?

Have you ever wondered if the Amazon Subscribe and Save program can actually save you money? Read this for a really honest cost comparison and review!

{Don’t miss our post on how the Subscribe & Save program can help you take charge of your budget!}

Amazon Subscribe and Save versus Warehouse Membership

Guest post from Sumitha of A Fine Parent

A recent post here on MoneySavingMom.com raised the question can a warehouse membership save you money?

What if your answer came out as a “No”?  Or, like me, what if you could possibly save some money, but dread the warehouse trips because (a) it’s too far away (b) it’s too crowded and (c) you end up buying way more than you planned to, because they entice you with those super yummy samples (Can you tell I have an incredible love-hate relationship with those samples?)

Maybe the real question is: Can you still save money withOUT the warehouse?amazon.com logo

A Cost Experiment

I recently ordered a whole bunch of household supplies using the Amazon Subscribe and Save option (details here), and I think the overall bill came out much lower than what it would cost me at Costco.

I’ll be honest — I did not cross check the price on each and every item. Instead, as always, I ran a quick litmus test by comparing the prices on two things — toilet paper and paper towels.

For toilet paper, we use Charmin Ultra Soft and my “stock up” price is $0.25 per regular roll. At Costco, when I had last checked they had a coupon running and the cost of a regular roll was $0.23. At Amazon, using the subscribe & save option, the cost of a regular roll was $0.22.

Similarly, for paper towels, we use Bounty and my stock up price is $0.75 per regular roll. At Costco, when I last checked, with coupon, it was $0.77 per regular roll. Amazon currently has a coupon too, and the cost came up to $0.59 per regular roll.

I was sold! I even ended up buying some items that are not available at warehouse locations and paid much less than the standard grocery store prices.

Amazon Subscribe and Save perks

A Few Tips on Using Amazon Subscribe and Save:

1. You can cancel the subscription immediately after you receive your shipment if you don’t think you will need the supplies at regular intervals, and re-subscribe when you do need the items again.

2. The subscribe and save items will be shipped in the month after the one that you place your order in — so you will need to plan ahead.

3. Shipping is free on subscribe and save orders.

4. Taxes will apply depending on your state.

5. You can stack Amazon coupons with the subscribe and save discount, so be sure to check for coupons before you place your order.

6. You get the 15-20% subscribe and save discount only if you have 5 or more subscriptions arriving in a month, otherwise the discount is just 5% (You can get up to a 20% discount if you have an Amazon Mom account).

7. There are no fees (equivalent to the warehouse membership fees) for using subscribe and save.

8. I personally think there is a better choice of items using Amazon subscribe and save. So, if you are brand-loyal or just like the ability to pick and choose, you may have better luck on Amazon subscribe & save compared to warehouse clubs.

9. You can shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 🙂

I better stop before I start sounding like an ad for Amazon — I am just flush with the joy of avoiding a trip to the warehouse by shopping in my jammies while the kiddo sleeps!

And, as it may be obvious from my excitement, I’m fairly new to this. If there are any veteran Amazon Subscribe and Save shoppers here, will you please share some of your expertise with us?

In your experience, what are the best products to save the most on compared to the warehouses? Any other tips, tricks, or gotchas to watch out for?

Sumitha is a long-time reader of MoneySavingMom.com and blogs at A Fine Parent. She believes that “Good Parents are Made, Not Born” and is dedicated to helping parents master the skills and habits required to become the best parents they can be. Click here to see how her passion can change your life!


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59 Comments

  • Lisa says:

    I have just recently started using Subscribe & Save regularly after we moved to a smaller town with fewer couponing options. I have also set a goal of earning $20 per month in Amazon gift cards through Swag Bucks which makes the Subscribe and Save an even better deal because I’m starting with $20 in “free” money! 🙂 I also believe that even without these savings there may not be a price one can put on having your groceries arrive on your doorstep! 🙂

    • Sumitha says:

      I haven’t tried Swag Bucks yet, but know several friends who swear by it. Having $20 in “free” money to pay for subscribe & save items sure sounds enticing! And “Amen” to having groceries arrive at your doorstep 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I’ve had Prime for a few years and my only complaint is that they have reduced the number of items that they ship for free. Less expensive items are now add-on items and you must have $25 worth to ship. That’s a small complaint to make and for $79 it is worth it. Being an Amazon Mom member with Prime is even better – 20% off diapers and wipes and those subscriptions contribute to the 5 subscriptions needed to get 20% off on other items in your shipment (not diapers and wipes). I also like that they give students with a .edu address a year for free and then three years of half off membership.

    • Sumitha says:

      I have a trial prime membership now, but I am thinking that I might cancel it at the end of the trial period. My problem with prime is, when I have access to free two-day shipping, I tend to buy more stuff than if I was required to wait until I hit the $25 limit or go to a store. It makes spending money a little *too* easy for my comfort 🙁

    • Brandi says:

      We recently moved and have found Amazon is much cheaper for wires, office supplies and some teaching supplies than other places. I feel like we have a box arriving every other day. Last week I got an email about a promotion they are running, if you buy $50 in gift cards, they give you $10. So I bought $50 “for” my husband and we got an extra $10 off of it-awesome deal!

      • Sumitha says:

        Wow Brandi, That’s a good deal! Was that a targeted promotion or was it some kind of a gift card sale on their site? I remember some time back they offered 10% off on gift cards purchased through chase ultimate rewards points, and I had stocked up on cards, so for a while all my Amazon shopping had an built-in extra 10% off!

  • Renee says:

    Litmus test doesn’t cut it for me. I would like to see a line by line pricing and if possible a consideration for the food items like meat, dairy, & fresh that you Would NOT be saving bc you had to go to a grocery store.

    • Crystal says:

      The pricing on Amazon changes all the time with sales, so a line-by-line is hard because the best deals only come around once every few months (I try to always post them when they are available). However, I’ve found I can usually beat warehouse membership prices on meat, dairy, and fresh produce.

      One thing that is really cool (and helpful): You can input the prices you typically pay for things on CamelCamelCamel.com and it will alert you via email when Amazon runs a sale that is at or below your “buy price”.

      • Sumitha says:

        @Renee, During my last visit to the local grocery store, I did look up the prices for a few of the other items I bought at Amazon and I paid less at Amazon than the shelf price for the items I checked. That said, if you are an avid couponer, you might be able to save more at the grocery story since you can only use Amazon coupons on Amazon.

        @Crystal, I love CamelCamelCamel.com for tracking prices of items on Amazon. The last couple of times though, by the time I checked their mail and went to Amazon, the prices had already gone up 🙁

      • Rachael says:

        I had been buying all of my produce at Sam’s Club, but I’m finding Bountiful Baskets a much better deal. We are eating the produce better, too, because there is more variety.

      • Lisa says:

        Crystal,

        If you do subscribe and save will all future orders stay the same price or will you get charged a higher price the following month if it goes up?

        Thanks!
        Lisa

        • Christy M. says:

          The subscribe and save price does change if the product price rises, but you will be sent an email reminder to let you know this so you can cancel the order if you aren’t happy with the new price.

  • Most people compare the cost per roll on toilet paper and paper towels, but for a true cost comparison, you need to compare the cost per length. Some rolls are long and some are short. (And some rolls are two-ply and some rolls are single-ply!)

    We have found the cost per length on toilet paper to be the lowest on the POM toilet paper at Sam’s Club (it’s two-ply, in case you wondered).

    I have 9 people at home and 8 of them use the toilet, plus I homeschool and my husband often works from home, so we go through a large amount of toilet paper.

    Before Sam’s started carrying the POM brand, Target had a lower price, but their prices changed last year. We compare prices on a regular basis on items to make sure we’re getting the lowest cost–and sometimes, like in this instance, we change brands and stores for it! (We already were Sam’s Club members).

    Sam’s Club does ship some items to members, and you can also have them pull items and have them ready for you if you want to avoid the samples.

    I used to buy Sam’s Club diapers, but Target has had a lower price, plus they often have coupons for their brand of diapers and gift card deals, as well as sales.

    It really depends on what you buy, so no matter what you’re getting, it’s good to compare each item, and then later to compare again when prices change.

    If you don’t have a membership card, you can look up prices online for the nearest warehouse store and see.

    I have a Sam’s Club card, and my mom has a Costco card. Each store carries different items, and I have compared prices on the items I buy to see which store would be better for me. Costco is really close, but I find more of what I need at Sam’s Club, which is not too far from here (and the membership is less).

    Yesterday, my mom called me from Costco to see if their price for a 10 pound bag of organic carrots was a good price (It was $4.89). For organic carrots, that’s a great price. However, I bought carrots (non-organic) in a 10 pound bag at Winco (no card needed) last week for $3.88.

    So, I think like anything, you need to know your prices and make adjustments to get the best prices.

    • Lacey says:

      That was very informative. Thank you!

    • Sumitha says:

      @The Prudent Homemaker, We normally stick to one brand of toilet paper and kitchen towels. And for these I compare the price of a *regular* roll. For instance, the TP I bought at Amazon was “Mega Rolls”, and the packaging states that 6 Mega Rolls = 24 Regular Rolls. So I find the price per Mega Roll and divide it by 4 to get the cost per *regular* roll. This makes it a little easier to calculate than the cost per length.

    • robyn says:

      @the prudent homemaker, I AGREE. i purchase toilet paper and paper towels based on price per sq ft. and NOT based on price per roll. each brand of TP and PT varies greatly in square footage. we’re not partial to brand as we too go through TP quickly, but i’ve found purchasing based on price per square footage to last longer than purchasing by price per roll. i’m always surprised when people purchase based on price per roll; especially in the coupon community where most people base foot price on lb. or oz why wouldn’t one do the same with TP or PT?

      with that said, i love amazon and buy many products via subscribe & ship, I actually canceled my prime membership because most of the items i buy are often offered subscribe and ship. I buy almond and coconut flour and sometimes i do purchase TP when i know the square footage and that isn’t always available. i do however still utilize a Costco membership. we buy organic eggs, organic spinach, organic kale, organic salad mix, organic carrots, organic berries, almond butter, wild salmon, gluten free bread and sometimes local pastured meats at Costco…i can’t get those on amazon. most importantly our organic coconut oil is bought at costco because it’s nearly half the price i can get on amazon regardless of deals; 28¢ at costco vs 47¢ w/ current subscribe and save.

  • I do love Amazon, too! I always buy my diapers this way (though I’ve found wipes are cheaper at Costco, so I buy those there). My ONLY complaint is that they recently switched to once a month delivery. So, if I need diapers sooner than my next month’s scheduled day, I can only get them if I pay the regular, non-subscribe and save, non- amazon mom price. At that point, it’s cheaper to buy them at a store with a coupon. Although you can change your “date”, you still can’t say, “send me my subscribe and save item now” and get the same price. Lame.

    • Sumitha says:

      @Jessica, I didn’t plan very well this time and actually needed one of the items in my list for this month instead of next. I called the customer service and they made sure all my items were shipped immediately with 2-day shipping (maybe because I have prime trial membership?) and I still got the 20% discount. So far, I’ve only had the best customer support experience from Amazon!

  • Cathy says:

    I was wondering if the author of this has the Amazon Student or Mom account as well to be getting 20% off? I just had my monthly order ship this week (with 5 items) and still only got 15% and am wondering how others are getting 20%?

    I don’t find the best prices on TP and paper towels on Amazon but do use it for our supplements, taco shells, and fruit leather for an on-the-go snack for the kids.

    • Sumitha says:

      @Cathy, Whoa! I think you are right. I do have an Amazon Mom membership which I got when my daughter was younger. I haven’t used in so long that I didn’t even remember I had it! And recently I have signed up for the Prime trial membership too. I think this is what bumped up the discount to 20%.

      I checked back and the subscribe and save box at the bottom says “Save 20% when 5 or more subscriptions arrive on your Subscribe & Save delivery day. Exclusive to Amazon Mom members with Prime.”

      When I am logged out it says “Save 5% when you subscribe to regular deliveries of this item. Save 15% on your entire delivery when you subscribe to 5 or more items that arrive in the same month. No commitments, no obligations, and shipping is FREE.”

      I am so bummed out. I was planning to cancel the prime membership after the trial period ends. I was also planning to shift some of my grocery shopping online because of the 20% discount, which as you pointed out, I will not get if I cancel the prime membership. 🙁

  • Wendy says:

    We did some Subscribe & Save with diapers, but it ended up not being all that great a deal. The price per diaper was decent, if I bought the GIANT packages, but it was about what I was paying for diapers at CVS and Publix when they were on sale and/or I had coupons. Plus, there was always the likelihood that my daughter would go up a size at a time we still had most of a box to go through – which would be a waste of $20-$40, far offsetting the savings. (We’re lucky that the CVS brand fits about as well as Pampers, too, so I can often get those for even less with coupons.)

    So yeah, Subscribe & Save didn’t end up being a savings for us, at least for diapers. I think maybe if you have twins or triplets so you’re going through diapers a lot faster, it might be a better deal, especially since CVS and other drugstores effectively cap how many packages you can buy at the sale price.

    • Sumitha says:

      @Wendy, I found the same thing about diapers when my daughter was younger and used diapers. At first, when she was very young and it was hard for me to track deals, the Subscribe and Save option was good since the diapers just arrived at the doorstep. But later, when I started venturing out again, I found that using coupons at local stores when the diapers were on sale, I could get smaller packages for less than the subscribe and save option – so I just switched to ordering some coupons on eBay and buying them at during a sale at the local stores.

  • Ashley says:

    I currently get the Finish Dishwashing Tabs with Subscribe and Save…I went searching to see if I could come up with 4 more things to get the higher discount, but after adding pullups, I couldn’t find anything else to get. To get a cheaper price on TP for me I’d have to get the giant packages I don’t want and I don’t use enough paper towels to make it worth while. I’m not sure what else to get. The few cleaning supplies I thought of don’t have a subscribe and save option…oh well. I’m still saving money with my 5%

    • Sumitha says:

      @Ashley, That was exactly how I felt when I bought my stuff 🙂 I did eventually find a LOT of items that I ended up ordering though… here is the list in case you are still looking for ideas…. soap, body wash, body lotion, altoids, replacement brush heads for electronic toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper and kitchen towel rolls.

  • TK says:

    Haha I think you hit your “sounding like an ad for Amazon” point at bullet 8. But they’re definitely good reasons to start using subscribe and save. I wonder though… do they never catch on when you keep subscribing and unsubscribing? It’s something I would take note of and probably limit if I were them.

    • Sumitha says:

      @TK, Ha! A pity it’s not as good as it looks though 🙁 The 20% discount is exclusive for Amazon Mom members with Prime (see comment from Cathy and my response above). Since I don’t plan to continue my Prime membership after the trial period expires, I will only get 15% off – not sure if it will still be worth it then.

  • Blessed Mama says:

    Does anyone know when they charge your account? Say my delivery date is by July 27- when would they charge my account? Thanks!

  • Erin says:

    I’ve ended up using amazon more because we don’t have a warehouse store by us. The closest on is about an hour away and so I don’t head that direction very often especially with the price of gas.

    • liz says:

      I love amazon subscribe and save! I live in a 3rd floor walk up in Chicago. It is SUCH a relief to have big items like tp, paper towels, and cat food delivered to my door. I may save a few a few bucks by going to the store, but in a Chicago winter? With a 5 year old? No way. The time and aggravation saved is worth it, plus I do not have to pay rediculous Cook County sales tax on these items.

      Also, my cat is on a special diet. It rarely goes on sale, and the local pet stores are inconsistent in stocking it. I cant switch her to something cheap from the grocery or she will get sick. Amazon ALWAYS has it in stock, and I can use my swagbucks to pay for part of it. Love Amazon!

      • Sumitha says:

        @Erin, in that case you may want to “batch up” your buying since you will save 15% or 20% (depending on whether you have Amazon Mom with Prime) compared to 5% if you just order less than 5 items. Then again, you probably already do that, don’t you 🙂

        @Liz, you’re right, the convenience factor sure can’t be beat! Regarding the taxes though, Amazon charges me taxes now, especially for the subscribe and save items. I’ve noticed that if it is NOT a subscribe and save item, depending on whether Amazon is shipping the items from their warehouse or a seller is directly shipping it, I sometimes don’t get charged taxes.

    • Micca says:

      When using subscribe & save I’ve never been charged until it ships. They also send you an email before it ships, giving you several days to cancel before they charge your card. I wish I could get everything through this service!

  • Jennifer A says:

    I have to say that I just checked out several of our regular staple items (toliet paper, dog food, cereal and cooking oils) and none of them were better prices than what I can get at the store (reg store not just big-box) with coupons. Yes, several prices were the same or close so for convenience sake it’s not a bad deal. That is the main problem I see with all of these grocery prices/saving money blogs. The prices are so different in different areas that it is very tough to make comparisons. It really has to be a local thing.

    • Sumitha says:

      Jennifer, Just like most stores, the prices at Amazon keep fluctuating. So, instead of the “set it and forget it” mode, I check the prices of items when I need them and if it seems reasonable, I create a new subscription for it and once I receive the items I cancel the subscription. If the prices have gone up when I need the item next time, I just get them locally.

  • Chris says:

    I just recently bumped up the number of my S&S items to be able to get the 15% off discount. I love the program! I am gluten free and have one child with food allergies and the specialty foods can be expensive. Amazon carries several of my favorites for less than the local stores.

    • Sumitha says:

      Yes, even I’ve noticed that for specialty items it is easier to get better deals on Amazon. For the more common items, if you have coupons, stocking them up from a local store during a sale maybe be a better option.

  • Amanda says:

    You can often find rubber gloves or paper plates to bring you up to five items cheaply.

  • Roxanne says:

    I love subscribe & save and almost every month have a delivery of 5 items.

    However, the subscribe & save prices change month by month. You may get a killer deal on Cottonelle in May, but by the time your next scheduled delivery comes up in July, the price has gone up $3.00.

    Most annoying, however, is that they frequently discontinue products from the subscribe & save program. Some things we are very brand loyal too, and those are the items that they tend to discontinue.

    So basically, every time I want a shipment I have to spend time researching the prices and lamenting the items that are no longer eligible for S & S.

    • Christie says:

      Excellent points!

    • Sumitha says:

      Yeah, that is a good point, Roxanne! I think I got such a good deal on the kitchen towels because they had a $7.00 off coupon when I ordered. So instead of setting up the subscribe and save and just let it run automatically, I do think it you would have to spend a few minutes each time to figure out if it is still is a good deal. That said, I personally would rather do that in the night in my jammies after the kiddo is in bed, than at the store during the day when I am rushed and have so many other things I should be doing….

      About them cancelling items from subscribe & save, yeah, that is a big problem…. While I was shopping, I noticed that they don’t offer subscribe & save on Aveeno anymore and I had to put that on the Costco list for my next visit 🙁

  • Mary says:

    I think Amazon subscribe and save is like warehouse clubs in that it’s not for everyone. If you have a small family and/or a small house, you may not be able to store or use up the huge packages they sell. If you are organized with your couponing, you can probably get better deals (and I want you to come do my shopping!).

    I have 5 kids. 2 wear pull ups at night and 2 are in diapers full time. Having diapers shipped to my door is invaluable to me! I still take advantage of great coupon deals when I can, because I can always stop my Amazon shipment if I stock up. But I can’t do enough deals to have enough diapers for all of them!

    I’ve been considering a Costco membership, but haven’t made the leap. Looking at Amazon more now. Still not sure. It’s hard for me to do a lot of coupon deals, so it might be a better option for us. But it’s not going to be the best option for everyone.

    • Sumitha says:

      @Mary, I think you nailed it! Yes, just like warehouse membership, Amazon Subscribe & Save is not for everyone. Also, even if you choose to use the Amazon Subscribe & Save option, it is not right for every single purchase — you just have to figure out what works best for you, and like you mentioned, for what reasons. That said, since there is no “membership fees” for using the program, I think it’s worth checking out to figure out if it works for you or not…

  • Christie says:

    You have to be careful with amazon. Although you can clip their coupons, I have yet to actually have any of them be applied to subscribe and save items. I have tried over and over, multiple ways, to no avail.
    Also, with some household items, they are not the same as what you would buy in a store. Charmin, for example, is only one-ply; but it does not say that anywhere in the descriptions.
    I used to be a huge S&S fan, but not so much anymore after all the changes to the program. (price increases, unflexible shipping schedule, reduced discounts)

    • Sumitha says:

      Thanks for the warning, Christie! I will watch out for these in the future. This time though, I did not have any trouble with the coupons – everything that I “clipped” showed up in the cart when I was ready to checkout and the Charmin TP that I received is 2-ply and feels very similar to the Charmin TP I have from Costco. But it is good to know that your experience was different, and I will keep my eye out on my future purchases.

    • Robyn says:

      I’ve had the same problem with Amazon coupons! When I purchase the item and click on the coupon, it applies it and appears to have worked. But when the time comes for the item to ship, I get an email with the total I’m being charged and the coupon has disappeared. This has happened numerous times. I’ve contact Amazon and they always apologize and offer to fix it, but the problem persists. It only seems to happen with the subscribe and save. My other problem has been with how they package the items for subscribe and save. They once packaged powdered dishwasher soap in the same box as food items and the soap leaked out all over the place. Customer service did ship out new food items when I complained, but I hated the extra hassle.

  • Ann says:

    Be very careful before you buy Toilet paper online. The last deal posted on Amazon did not mention it was 1 ply …. that’s why it’s cheaper!!! Now I have 40 rolls of 1 ply. READ the description before you click BUY. tx

    • Cassi says:

      My only issue with subscribe and save is that there are items that I would use for S&S if it were available! Like nursing pads and breast milk bags!

  • Patty says:

    I just did this for the first time. I think it may be a great thing but it is confusing at first. I clicked the subscribe button on the page with the product, then subscribe on the next page too. I didn’t realize that I was actually making the purchase. I had made 5 purchases before I could review it and make sure I was getting the 15%. I got immediate separate emails for each item. The first 4 emails said I got 5%, then the last one said I got 15% off. I contacted customer service and she assured me that I did get 15% on each item. I don’t like that I didn’t know I was actually placing my order each time I hit subscribe. I won’t give up on it though since I did save money on those items and I didn’t have to shop with my kids in tow!

  • Heather says:

    Could this post be edited, please? I just spent 15 minutes online with a very nice customer service rep and it takes a lot of scrolling down to find out that the 20% is only with an amazon mom as well as prime membership. I wondered why mine still said 15% and I would have been disappointed in a couple of weeks if I had not checked! I will look into signing up for amazon mom but I do think the post should be changed. Thanks!

  • Kim says:

    The only thing I’d add is that you can set the delivery schedule from 1-6 months. They will email you before a shipment, and you have the option to put off the shipment if you don’t need it that month. It’s very easy to do.

  • Misty says:

    I will have to compare the Amazon prices to Walmart. Usually I get everything on Walmart’s website because it ships for free when you spend at least $45 on home good items – which I always do. I buy the economy size of everything – soap, laundry detergent, face wash, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc. and stock up every other month or so. I’m due in a week or two so I’ll definitely check out Amazon first. Thanks for all the information everyone!

  • Kristin says:

    I love getting things shipped to my door, so I use Amazon Subscribe and Save when I can/when I find good deals on things we use. But we still have a Costco membership, and for us I don’t see it as one or the other. The things we get at Costco are things like frozen organic vegetables and fruits (which we always get for the month there–lots of them), fresh organic veggies, guacamole, boxes of soy and rice milk, some organic meat, flax seed, rice, etc. all of which you cannot get on Amazon or would pay a lot more for.

  • Lindy says:

    I have just been using Wal-mart.com, so this intrigues me. I usually do pretty good since the taxes are cheaper than in my store, I can get money back still by using my cash back credit card, I go to Big Crumbs and save there, and if I spend $45 or more on most items, I get free shipping. I’ve really enjoyed it, but hate that there aren’t the cheaper brands. I’m usually not a brand person (just a few items). So I’m curious about this, but not sure it would be best for me!
    We don’t have any warehouses around…I actually use Sam’s and pay a membership just to get my formula sent to my home (free shipping).

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